Friday, January 12, 2007

China - Day 5 & 6

The visit to China wasn't really all I had hoped it would be. We drove via coach bus to Guangzhou, which took over 3 hours. As we were driving, you could notice the smog hovering in the air (it was disgusting). The one pleasant surprise was our hotel. The rooms were very nice and at least twice the size of our room in Hong Kong. This hotel is located right next to the US Consulate, so many Americans stay there, especially those that travel overseas to adopt Chinese babies. The worst part about the hotel was the water. We were told not to drink the water (not even use it to brush your teeth), but the water SMELLED. So even though it looked clean, you didn't ever feel like you were since it smelled so badly.

The first visit we did was completely worthless and just a bunch of marketing propaganda. So I won't say anything more about that. The second visit we were supposed to have was cancelled, so we spent the afternoon sightseeing around Guangzhou. We went to a temple (the Six Banyan Temple, seen here), which was really cool. Plus, we got to see a pagoda. Then we went to a Chinese tea house, where they did a demonstration for us. I really don't like tea at all, but I participated, which just confirmed that I still don't like tea. We were told that the foot massages in China were really good, so our guide Glory took us to a massage house that night. The massage was more than just a foot massage. You first soak your feet in a bucket (literally) while they do a seated back massage. After the back massage you take your feet out of the water and they do the foot and leg massage. It was 70 minutes of wonderful...and all for $7!

On our way back to Hong Kong the next day, we went to Shenzhen to visit a plastics factory that is owned by one of the Univ. of Iowa Hong Kong graduates. It took us 3 hours to get there, and we were in a very remote and undeveloped area. The factory was very primitive as well. There were 3 stories to it, and all of the manufacturing and finished product storage was kept on the 3rd floor (doesn't make much sense, does it?). The noise in the manufacturing area was deafening too...and no one was really wearing ear plugs (which the students that work at John Deer and Rockwell couldn't believe). Plus, there were absolutely no safety measures in place. They said that the factory is ISO 9001 certified, but that was pretty hard to believe, especially when you compare it to factories in the U.S. (or I'm sure in Japan).

All in all, China has a long way to go. I'm sure cities like Beijing and Shanghai are much different, but Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. Our guide in Guangzhou had some very interesting views and provided some good information. He seemed very Westernized (he travels to Europe with tour groups, and he loves Desperate Housewives). The average Chinese citizen makes about $6,000 a year, but if you work for an American company based in China, you are much better off. He also told us that the government blocks Western news websites, like and But we did get the 5:30 news from CBS and ABC in our hotel. He also said that being a Communist country doesn't really bother him, as long as he is successful, what does it matter? He also was very supportive of the birth control (only one baby per family) that the government put into place, as they estimate that the Chinese population would be almost 2 billion people instead of the 1.4 billion they are today. I'm glad that we only had to spend two nights in would have been enough for me!

1 comment:

Sheryl/Mom/Grandma said...

Katie - What a great opportunity to see the differences between US manufacturing and Chinese mfg. How very interesting that the factory "meets" ISO standards, allegedly, but has not even rudimentary safety standards. So is it safe to say that Chinese mfg. standards are similar to what Mf. was like in the US in the late 1800's?? So, Chinese workers make a little over 6,000 a year, work in potentially unsafe conditions, assuredly have little or no job security, and the Chinese government keeps the yuan artifically low so that the US continues to use this system. Wow, the glories of "Free Trade"!